ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe has revealed that it has invested US$1,2 billion in the economy since the country's largest telecommunications company was started 15 years ago, with at least $1 billion of that amount spent in the last five years alone.
CEO Douglas Mboweni also said more than 50,000 direct and indirect jobs had been created, more than 20,000 small businesses had been sustained by the company and in excess of 25,000 young people are now employed selling airtime and other services.
Mboweni said the investment by Econet, even in the face of economic challenges in, was a demonstration by the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company of its commitment to the country's economic future. This year alone, Econet will have spent $180 million on further capital investments, he said.
Making an impassioned appeal to other companies to follow Econet's example to invest in Zimbabwe, Mboweni said Econet's expansion had created capacity to provide telecommunication services to more than 8.5 million customers.
As a result of Econet's investment, Zimbabwe now had the highest number of people accessing banking services via the mobile phone in Africa after Kenya, following the introduction of EcoCash.
Discussing the impact of the business over the last 15 years of its operations, Mboweni said Econet had paid government $815 million in taxes, fees, and duties. This amount includes $137.5 million which has been paid in full to the government over the last few months to renew Econet's licence.
Shareholders of the company, who are the largest group on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, had received more than $190.5 million in dividends and share buy backs, he said.
Mboweni said Econet was also the mainstay of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, stating that "more shares are traded in Econet than any other company and we are the main vehicle by which foreign investors are still investing in the country, by way of the stock exchange".
On employment creation, Mboweni said the number of direct and indirect jobs had not only been provided by Econet, but also by its suppliers, dealers, vendors, as well as construction firms contracted by the company.
"We are the biggest empowerment company, and the biggest 'empowerer' of others in the economy of Zimbabwe," he said.
Mboweni said the company was "working flat out, to help the country, stimulate economic revival. We are working hand in hand with government, to help our country get back on its feet".
He said the key to Econet's success from its inception, was based on its tireless efforts to ensure that Zimbabweans enjoy world class services in telecommunications.
"No matter the conditions prevailing, we have never given up in our responsibility to ensure our people get access to the latest, most advanced facilities," he said.
"Today, we are second only in the region when it comes to the number of people who have access to telecommunications. And when it comes to Internet access, a higher percentage of Zimbabweans now have access via their cell phone."
Mboweni said according to the GSMA sub-Saharan Africa Mobile Observatory Report issued in November 2012, Zimbabwe mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1% compared to a 10% global average.
"The majority of Internet access in Zimbabwe is due to investment by Econet," said Mboweni.
"Zimbabwe is now second only to Kenya in terms of the percentage of its population that uses mobile banking. All this is provided by Econet. We are not going to stop trying to serve our community, despite what has at times been a very difficult environment because of factors like sanctions," said Mboweni.
On the $1.2 billion in investment, Mboweni said: "For a cell phone to work, it is not because of SIM cards, or steel towers, but a massive investment in equipment, which people cannot see. This year alone we will spend $180 million on capital investments for the business."
The Econet CEO called on other Zimbabwean businesses to emulate his company to continue investing in Zimbabwe.
"We cannot afford to give up, as business people we have to do everything possible to mobilise investment, and to find innovative solutions, for everything we do," he said.